On Trends, Hashtags and Writing What You Want

A few weeks back I got into a very interesting discussion of BDSM and kink in romance writing via twitter, starting with a question posted by the Smart Bitches. The conversation began by asking whether we are “kinked out” in romance. It piqued my interest, because the manuscript I’m about to submit (no pun intended) is a BDSM love story, and I wanted to know where people were at on the topic.

The answers were varied: a good number of people said they still liked reading it, while some were completely sick of spanking and butt plugs and needed some good old, sweet vanilla romance. Others, myself included, were sick of one specific thing: poorly written kink. Of authors writing for the sake of the trend, but creating inorganic connections between characters and not having done their research. Of billionaire doms with big cocks and innocent weak-spined subs

*Tiptoes around the subject of The Book That Shall Not Be Named*

In the last three years, the market has been flooded with a massive amount of BDSM stories, so much so that it’s become difficult to tell the good from the cringeworthy. The door has been opened, but have we now gotten to the point where there’s so much of it that people are completely avoiding books that even mention a Dom/sub relationship in the description? This scares the crap out of me, because when I started this story, I didn’t write it with the trend in mind. I wrote it because of the personal, damaging experience I had in the lifestyle over a decade and a half ago, and because the idea, once it started to form, wouldn’t be quieted.  Because the characters’ tales needed to be told. And it worries me to know that the story I love might never be read simply because the market trend has beaten the interest out of readers. (Again, no pun intended!)

(Well, maybe a little.) 

All this was followed by #Pitmad and #MSWL on twitter. (If you don’t know what that means, check out  Diana Urban’s post on Twitter hashtags writers should follow when seeking a literary agent.) Now, I’m all for using social media to get yourself out there and make connections, and for using something like this to figure out where to query something you’ve already written, but there’s the other side of it. The “this is what agents/editors want and I have to figure out how to write it RTFN” side. Manuscript wish lists are great and all, except when you take into account the sheer amount of time it takes to write, rewrite, perfect and then submit a book. By the time you’ve done that, whatever these agents and editors are wishing for is passé. Is this putting pressure on anyone else? Because it sure as hell is making me worry more about the salability of what I’m writing instead of the story itself. 

In skimming through these hashtags, however, I came across Jodi Meadows’ tweet, where she noted that she was seeing a lot of  “‘that’s been done in X book’ responses to wants. Don’t let that get you down. It hasn’t been done by YOU.”

That was the cartoon-esque moment when the sun broke through the clouds for me, because that’s the gist of it, isn’t it? There could be a dozen stories on the same idea out there, but none of them are uniquely yours. Reading that dovetailed so nicely with the appearance of Erin Bowman’s Write what’s in your heart post in my inbox. Her post reminded me that despite the trends and the hashtags, the pressure and chatter on Facebook and Twitter, the only thing I should be writing is the story I’m the most excited about. The one I find the most compelling. The idea that haunts me, keeps me up at night, and refuses to be ignored. I have to do that. If I don’t, and I write the story I think agents or readers want, then I will end up writing something only written for the current trend, something inorganic and shallow, no different from the stories I was lamenting about earlier. I  can’t worry about my book not getting out there because BDSM is “getting old.” One of the best responses I read to the Smart Bitches conversation was one that said “BDSM isn’t a trend any more than LGBTQ is. It’s an aspect of sex. It’s taste. It’s lifestyle. It’s love.” I couldn’t agree more. And, as a reader, I know that what’s appealing to me changes. One week I really want to read the cowboy, vanilla, small town romance in Meg Maguire’s Tresspass, while another I’ll be into the dystopian, kinky hotness of Kit Rocha.

So I’m going to follow Erin’s advice when she said:

Write the book that’s in your heart and write it exactly as you see it fit. Do this and you will never regret telling that story, even if it doesn’t get picked up. Because if you’re proud of your novel—if it’s filled with characters you love and a world you created and a story you couldn’t not tell—it will always, always be worth it.

 

 

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